Tag Archives: captivity

Animal rights, animal captivity, slavery, and racism

My compatriots who stand in front of the aquariums around the world trying to educate the public about the true nature of marine mammal captivity have all, at one time or another – or all the time for some of us – had the uncomfortable recognition of “there but for the grace of god go I” when we see animals being held against their will in a concrete tank and enclosure.

Whether those animals are also required to perform, circus-like, or just held in a tank to swim around in circles for the rest of his existence; whether her companions are part of those truly gawdy “shows” or “extravaganzas” with shiny lights, shiny clothes and shiny names, like Stargazer; whether or not there is loud music, any too loud for creatures who use echolocation to communicate with their world but who can no longer do so in the same way with all that racket; the captivity, the willingness of humans to enslave, is at the root.

Animal rights advocates are not shy about acknowledging the parallels between a willingness to justify keeping these animals in captivity, on the one hand, with racism, on the other.  How far removed is a willingness to enslave an animal from a willingness to see humans also in some hierarchy of worth and to treat them accordingly?

Harpers, June 2012, Front Cover

Thanks to David Samuels for his fine article in Harpers, we learn the history of zoos in America, from its most significant founder, Madison Grant, and uncovers something more than “parallels” in the connection between our willingness to set standards for others – whether those “others” are human or some other form of life on this planet – that are based in anything other than their own native rights.

“The Nordics are, all over the world, a race of soldiers, sailors, adventurers and explorers, but above all, of rulers, organizers, and aristocrats,” Grant wrote.  Mocking the idea that environment, education, and opportunity could alter heredity, Grant expressed his great disgust for Negroes and issued dire warning about the Jewish immigrants, whose “dwarf stature, peculiar mentality and ruthless concentration on self-interest are being engrafted upon the stock of the nation.”  Unchecked immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe, and southern Italians, he warned, had turned New York City into a “cloaca gentium,” producing racial horrors that future anthropologists would find impossible to unravel.

I urge you to read this article, especially if you are interested in the historical roots of today zoos – and, by extension, the relative newcomer, the aquarium.

It will bear out factually what many of you have heard reverberate through every justification of the enslavement of animals.  For those of you who have either personally or historically experienced a racial or ethnic discrimination at the hands of a more powerful band of humans, I just don’t get how you can support animal enslavement for your amusement.

Don’t go to the dolphin show.  It’s based in slavery.

For more information and how to end this slavery, please visit Free the Atlanta 11, Save Misty the Dolphin, Save Japan Dolphins, Blue Voice, A Red Letter Day for Dolphins and Sea Shepherd.  That should get you started.

Namaste.

Honoring another creature recognizes the divinity in all

Recognizing the divinity in all

Join in finding freedom from captivity – A New Show

Ric O'Barry after release of The Cove

Ric O’Barry after release of The Cove, photo from The Examiner

For years, Ric O’Barry and Hardy Jones have spoken out against marine mammal captivity.  They have pointed out in movies, such as The Cove and A Fall from Freedom, that whales and dolphins do not belong in captivity.  Recently a group of former Sea World trainers have created an interactive website, where they speak out about the life of captivity for marine mammals.

Mr. O’Barry, as a former and probably the world’s most famous dolphin trainer, learned from being with them on an ongoing basis, that training them to perform and keeping them in captivity was not an ethical undertaking.  He learned that dolphins in those settings can become dispirited and depressed.  He learned what Jacques Cousteau admonished, that

No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marine lands can be considered normal.  – Jacques Yves Cousteau

In response to that realization, Mr. O’Barry and others have devoted their lives toward securing the release of dolphins and orcas from a captive, for-human-entertainment life.

Rehabilitate the captives.  Mr. O’Barry has suggested an ethical alternative for the trainers and the captive facilities, like SeaWorld and the Georgia Aquarium.  That alternative is to provide real education about whales and dolphins by rehabilitating for a life in the wild the cetaceans whom the aquarium industry has captured or bred for captivity.  And making that the show. There are over 50 cetaceans at Sea World Orlando alone, and hundreds in the United States.  The international situation mirrors the United States one, with worse conditions than the meager protections afforded by U.S. laws.

Wouldn’t rehabilitation of former “performers” be a fine undertaking and a show that you’d be proud to attend?  And a wonderful memory for your children?  Of having been part of and been there on the front row of finding freedom for the world’s dolphins and whales.

You have, perhaps, seen the videos of dogs who had spent their entire lives chained to a post and then become free from that chain.  While dogs and dolphins are not an apt special comparison because dolphins are actually wild, undomesticated animals, watching even a dog experience freedom from a chain, unsuitable for its normal activity and range, may give us some sense of what an orca or dolphin, far more intelligent than a dog, would experience in the same situation.

We would need to be very responsible in that endeavor to release these highly intelligent mammals in a way that took into account their intelligence, their lifestyles, their instincts, their native habitat.  We could do that.  And if we humans are ethical and moral creatures, we will do that.

Rehabilitate the stranded.  After we succeeded in rehabilitating the captive-bred or captured dolphins and orcas, there would be ongoing work to rehabilitate whales and dolphins who strand, generally en masse, for reasons that still elude the human species.  Instead of finding reasons to retain the stranded, Sea World and the rest could re-focus the effort that they now expend in training for jumping, splashing, ball-throwing shows on caring for the stranded, locating the still-free remnant of the pods, and reuniting them.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to share with your children an experience of restoring a free life to these magnificent creatures?  As a comparison, if we desired to design a depressing life for dolphins and whales, we would wind up with a design like the current Sea World and The Georgia Aquarium.  Of course, that is not our desire.  That is, I feel certain, not the desire of the aquariums.  But the apparently willful blindness of the aquarium industry to the egregious, depressing life that they have designed for whales and dolphins is no excuse.  It is not an excuse for any of us, any more. We and they must step beyond the Mid-Twentieth Century mentality of dolphin and whale captivity.

The great news is that there is an alternative. An ethical alternative.  An alternative that will allow us all to participate in making a difference for life.  But we must together create that alternative.  How?

By being part of a demand for A New Show.

And, meanwhile, by taking a pledge not to go to the current one.  Be part of building an ethical outcome to the captivity dilemma.  Never again allow a dolphin to die as Jiyu, whose life will forever remind us that dolphins should be free.

Jiyu a dolphin who couldn't withstand captivity Taiji Cove

Jiyu a dolphin who couldn’t withstand captivity, photo by Heather Hill of Save Japan Dolphins

Namaste.

A few words and a moment of silence for Jiyu

Jiyu a dolphin who couldn't withstand captivity Taiji Cove

Jiyu a dolphin who couldn’t withstand captivity, photo by Heather Hill of Save Japan Dolphins

To those who think that dolphin captivity is a benign enterprise, meet Jiyu, one of its latest casualties.  To those who go to the dolphin show, whether Sea World, the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, or another, the dolphins you see in the show are the ones who made a successful transition from living in the wild to captivity or the progeny of those who made that transition.

What is central to this transition?  Force-feeding.  Wild dolphins catch and eat live fish.  Once they have been deprived of the ability to feed themselves, they must be motivated by food-deprivation (hunger) followed by force-feeding to accept dead fish as food.

Hand down the throat

Hand down the throat, photo by Martyn Stewart

What does force-feeding of a dolphin look like?  In a nutshell, the first trainers these dolphins will ever see must “break” them to accept a small enclosure.  The trainers, or most appropriately called “breakers”, force their hands down the throats of dolphins pushing dead fish to the point in their throats where the dolphins are unable to spit it out.  Over and over and over, until the dolphin accepts dead fish from the hands of people as their food.

You won’t see that from the trainers at Sea World or the Georgia Aquarium, because the first trainers somewhere else performed that ugly task.  The show trainers may still need to perform force-feeding, but they don’t typically do that in front of you.  They save that for the back-tanks.  After the show.

But what about the dolphins that do not make the transition from a free life to captivity and become a casualty?  Meet Jiyu, who was snatched from the wild, languished, unable to make the transition, unable to accept dead fish as food.

The trainers, realizing that she was a “lost cause” for the show or breeding in captivity, stopped caring for her.  And now she has disappeared from this miserable pen, and is likely in a grocery store, in the human food chain.

I am sorry, Jiyu.  Someday there will be no more dolphin shows or trainers whose  job it is to dominate and force-feed you.  Someday there will be trainers whose job it is to teach your kind to learn how to fish and be returned to the ocean where you deserved to live out your life.

And now, reader, please have a moment of silence to honor the life of Jiyu and the others who have fallen due to the captive dolphin industry.

Thank you to Martyn Stewart for the images of the breaker and Heather Hill for the video of Jiyu.  For more information, see Champions for Cetaceans, My Porpoise Driven Life and Suite 101.

Why Orcas Should not be in Captivity

The magnificent Orca

Naomi Rose, PhD, Senior Scientist for the Humane Society International and the Humane Society of the United States, has published a white paper which summarizes certain facts relevant to the condition of orcas in captivity versus those who live a natural life in the wild. Dr. Rose points to the following reasons why these marvelous creatures should not be captured or bred and held in captivity:

  • Longevity: Orcas in the wild have a significantly shorter lifespan in captivity than in the wild. Wild males orcas have a maximum life expectancy of 60-70 years; females 80-90 years – comparable to a human life span. No captive male orca has ever lived past 35. Ever. Only two captive female orcas have lived past 40.
  • Causes of death: The most common cause of death in orcas pneumonia, septicemia and other infections. It appears that the ability of veterinary care for captive orcas is too unsophisticated to detect health issues on a time-frame that can intercede and save the individual. A complicating factor in orca health appears to be immunosuppression, which in humans, is known to be greatly exacerbated by depression and stress, both of which are common in the captive orca population.
  • Dental health: Well-documented and common teeth issues in captive orcas which do not appear to the same degree in their wild counterparts. The poor dental health is in part due to the orcas gnawing on metal bars and concrete walls, which breaks the teeth. These broken teeth, most often drilled out as a palliative measure, serve as a direct conduit for infection.
  • Aberrant Behavior: Aggression toward other orcas in the wild is undocumented, while it is not uncommon in captivity. So, too, is mother orca rejection of offspring: uncommon in the wild; common in captivity.
  • Harm to humans: Pay attention to the current OSHA hearing regarding the SeaWorld’s orca program and specifically whether SeaWorld may have knowingly exposed its trainers and other employees to dangerous and life-threatening conditions including Dawn Brancheau. Four humans have been killed by orcas in captivity, while there is no documented case of a wild orca killing a single human.

They do not belong in captivity. They do not thrive in captivity.

Please don’t go to the orca, or dolphin, show. For more information, please watch A Fall From Freedom, a full-length documentary currently streaming over the internet.

September 7, 2011

September 7, the first were killed, including the mother and baby.  The mother and baby that we saw just before they were slaughtered.  Thanks to the kind heart and brave spirit of Leilani Munter for Save Japan Dolphins, we can see the souls to whom we said goodbye.

I have to believe that these souls will be among the last to die.  That they will be specially honored among cetaceans as those who captured the world’s heart and awoke its will, and saved all who came after from the same fate.

No matter what happens every day, every day I will call.

I will call to beg.  I will call to bargain.  I will call to thank on the days that the hunt is called off.  And for the day when it is called off forever, I now bless their souls.